With nose tackle B.J. Raji walking away from football for at least a year, the Green Bay Packers were left with a gaping hole on the defensive line.
The Packers used the 27th pick in the NFL Draft to select UCLA defensive lineman Kenny Clark.
Job one for Clark will be to stop the run. Packers general manager Ted Thompson said Clark may have the chance to rush the passer on selected passing downs.
Playing a 3-4 defense requires a good nose tackle. They had one with Raji. Now they’re hoping Clark will step in and be productive from the start.
Thompson had his choice among defensive linemen, but he chose Clark. The list of big men available included A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed of Alabama, Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech and defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Mississippi.
Nkemdiche was selected by Arizona at number-29 and Butler went 30th to Carolina. Robinson and Reed are still available with rounds two and three coming tonight.
The Packers have a need at inside linebacker and Clark’s teammate, Myles Jack was still on the board. But a knee injury not only scared off the Packers, but every other team looking for a linebacker as well.
The Packers also like Clark’s leadership. He was elected team captain of the Bruins this past season.
Thompson admitted that they fielded calls from teams looking to acquire their pick at 27. But the Packers GM said they didn’t ever get into a position where they wanted to pursue any discussion.
Round’s two and three of the draft are on tap tonight in Chicago. Barring trades, the Packers still have eight more selections to make in the draft.